Film: Also Showing

Motel Cactus park ki-yong (NC)
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THE DEBUT feature of South Korean director Park Ki-Yong, Motel Cactus is a fairly ambitious mood piece about four romantic encounters all set in room 407 of a Seoul love motel.

In the first segment, a woman argues with her boyfriend about commitment; in the second, a young couple turn up to shoot a diploma video but decide to have sex instead; the third features a slightly older couple having what the plot synopsis styles "wild recreational sex"; the final part is a melancholy reunion for ex-lovers who can no longer connect.

Between the desultory talk and the frenetic sex, the film devotes itself almost entirely to atmosphere. Over the course of its ninety minutes we come to know this motel room pretty well, and its bathroom intimately.

Park Ki-Yong's favourite shot is of cascading water, be it of two people cosying up under a tumultuous shower or an outside lamp dripping with rain. This has become almost a signature of his cinematographer Christopher Doyle, whose images of the thunderous Iguazu Falls in Brazil were memorably portrayed in Wong Kar-Wai's Happy Together.

Doyle also loves the play of light through windows and across walls, and modulates its effect to suit the mood: I especially admired the final shot of a couple lying on a bed, lost in their own thoughts, while a yolky light suffuses them.

While Motel Cactus doesn't lack for pretty pictures, it never pushes its characters beyond a modish series of tableaux vivants. There's plenty of stylish smoking and shagging, which is perhaps what these motel rooms were specifically designed for; but its appeal wanes as a spectator sport.